Thursday, February 14, 2013

Houston Spots near the NBA All Star Game

In town for the NBA All Star Game and want to wander?

No worries, Houston has tons to do near the Toyota Center, but not all will show up on your Google Maps!

Here's a quick and dirty list to meet your needs:

Alcohol for your room/suite


Spec's at 2410 Smith St  Houston, TX 77006.  Don't pay fourteen times the actual cost by ordering a bottle from room service.  Not when you have an adult Disney just a stone's throw away in Midtown.    Spec's is the state's largest liquor store at 80,000 feet, with everything alcohol under the sun.  Plus, it's got a deli, cheese, and delicacies section to swoon for.  Where else can you B-ball highrollers pick up a 1938 bottle of Macallen (at a mere $12,400 before the cash discount) and Buluga caviar all at the same time?  Feeling a little more thrifty?  They've got a Texas-size array of all the regular beer and wine, too.  Give the Bombshell Blonde a try--it's a local craft beer.  Ambling through Spec's is worth it.  With all the taste tests, sights, and sounds, it's a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Need a steak?


Vic & Anthony's, 1510 Texas Ave., near Minute Maid Field.  Vic & Anthony's is golden, elegant, and intimate, even with a group at your table.   It's won Best Atmosphere in the Houston Press in past years.  The steaks are juicy and perfect.  Dress?  Houston is pretty casual, but no shorts (or caps or tank tops) here.  They wouldn't let Paula Deen and her hubby eat here in shorts a while back, even though the spot is on the Food Network star's list of culinary hotspots.  Owner Tilmann Fertitta now has a Vic & Anthony's in Vegas and Atlantic City , too, but this is the first.  Don't mind a 20 minute drive for another choice?    Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, 5839 Westheimer, west of the Galleria, is fabulous in a traditional steakhouse way and, more importantly, it's not a national chain. 

Dinner with downtown atmosphere?

The Grove, 1611 Lamar, sits on Discovery Green Park in downtown.  Beautiful, modern, with a locavore menu.

17 Restaurant, in the Alden Hotel, at  1117 Prairie.  Retro glamour and style here, good for your $$$$.

Cheaper eats?

Try Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 1001 Austin (near Discovery Green Park).  Rustic pizzas, fresh baked pita bread, schawarma, a huge deli case, and a bakery counter to die for.  Add its MKT Bar, with beer, wine, coffee, light bites, and often live music--it's a great place to duck into.

Our Vietnamese section of Midtown also has inexpensive options.  I really like Cali Sandwich at 3030 Travis.  The re-built Mai's at 3403 Milam is a city-wide go-to for spring rolls.

Mexican?  Irma's Downtown, 22 N. Chenevert.  There are no menus, so don't freak out.  Outside of downtown, head to El Real on Westheimer near Montrose.  Or El Tiempo at 3130 Richmond or 5602 Washington.

Cool bars and clubs downtown?

Reserve 101, at 1201 Caroline, is close to the Toyota Center.  It's a whiskey bar that gets good reviews.

Venue Houston, 723 Main at Rusk.  Dance, dance, dance here.  No hats.  No sneakers.  No t-shirts.  The basketball wives were featured last night.  They've got an All Star weekend planned ahead--Big Sean, Dwight Howard, DJ Kid Capri.

Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto (in Midtown, not downtown).  Big dance club near the rail line (McGowen stop).  $$$ to get in.  Rich's facebook page promoted a Friday party with Alicia Keyes and Swiss Beatz and a Saturday party with Jay Z.  Swiss Beatz says 'taint true . . . false promo.

House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, at Houston Pavilions.  Lots of star-hosted stuff through the All Star weekend.

Scott Gertner's Skybar, 1201 Fannin, at Houston Pavilions.  John Legend, Terrence Howard, Je'Caryous Johnson. $$$.

Other Star-Hosted Parties?

See here for a list.  They are in, near, and away from dowtown, but you're going to pay bucks to get in.  Many are ticketed, so not just your fabulous self and good looks can get you past the door. 

All Star-type Clothes?

The Tipping Point, 1212 Main at Polk.  Not a mere sneaker boutique, this store reflects the fast-moving fashion, philosophies, art, and culture of hip hop and music.

That's it downtown?

No, there's more to eat , drink, and buy in clusters around downtown.  See this Downtown Houston Guide.  Basically, Toyota Center is located in the "Convention District."  In the nearby "Shopping District" is one cluster of restaurants, shopping, and bars--in Houston Pavilions and anchored by the House of Blues.  Bayou Place is second cluster over in the Theater District.  On Main Street (near Preston rail stop) and around Market Square (both in the "Historic District") are some of Houston's longest-established bars and haunts--like Dean's Credit Clothing (Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame loved it here), Flying Saucer, Market Square Bar & Grill, Warren's, La Carafe, Flying Saucer.

What's in  Midtown?  Much more.  On the train line, you can reach Julia's Bistro, Tacos A Go-Go, the Continental Club, and t'afia.  Our nationally recognized the breakfast club is located nearby (get there early, the line goes out the door).  So is my favorite Reef, a Gulf Coast seafood kitchen by local celeb chef Bryan Caswell.  Midtown has a whole list of places to see and be seen, try the link.

Sleek and chic lounges (and less bucks to go)?

A duo in the Museum District is always packed--parking is hard to come by, so circle patiently or get dropped off.  Faces Ultra Lounge, 5104 Almeda at Southmore, features hip hop, rhythm, and blues--no cover during All Star week.  Chic, sexy (yes, it is, I've been there), and "packed with women" (says a recent review).  Its laid-back neighbor across the street, with sleek bar, generous patio, and old-school music, is Bar 5015 at 5015 Almeda.  Down the street is Cafe 4212 at 4212 Almeda, filled with 40 & 50-somethings who are still as chic and sleek but not as cra-cra.   Cafe 4212 was started by a Katrina transplant who missed the feel of live music clubs in New Orleans.  I'm not sure he still owns or manages it, but it's got a beautiful back patio--cover charge varies by the band.  Come to this part of town for dinner first at Lucille's, 5512 LaBranch.  It bills itself as a culinary art history lesson of southern cooking, and it delivers the goods.  The Chronicle's critic gave it good marks just this week.  Or try The Reggae Hut at 4814 Almeda.  A long time anchor on Almeda, the breakfast klub's owners bought it and tweaked it not long ago.

Otherwise, a lot of the locals are club and barhopping on Washington Avenue, away from downtown.

Anything else?

It's oyster season in the Gulf of Mexico and the best in Houston can be found at Danton's, 4611 Montrose (about 10 minutes' drive from downtown).

Y'all want to eat at Uchi's or Underbelly's?  Yeah, you and 1000 other people.  If you can't get in--here are some alternatives:

  • In place of Underbelly, try Feast at 219 Westheimer Road (close to downtown).

  • In place of Uchi, try the sushi at Osaka, 515 Westheimer (near downtown) or Nippon, 4464 Montrose (humble decor, good sushi) or Kata Robata at 3600 Kirby (Upper Kirby area).  


No comments:

Post a Comment